Elon Musk says we may live in a simulation. Here’s how we might tell if he’s right
Is the world around us real — or are we living in a simulation, like characters trapped inside some space alien’s video game? That sounds like a question you might hear at a midnight screening of ‘The Matrix,’ but lately it’s become the subject of serious academic debate. High-profile proponents of what’s known as the “simulation hypothesis” include SpaceX chief Elon Musk, who recently expounded on the idea during an interview for a popular podcast.
Could we be living in The Matrix? Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees, giving “better than 50-50 odds” that the simulation hypothesis is correct. “I wish I could summon a strong argument against it, but I can find none,” he told NBC News MACH in an email.
The current assault on reality began with a 2003 paper by Nick Bostrom. In it, the University of Oxford philosopher laid down some blunt logic: If there are long-lived technological civilizations in the universe, and if they run computer simulations, there must be a huge number of simulated realities complete with artificial-intelligence inhabitants who may have no idea they’re living inside a game — inhabitants like us, perhaps. These beings might imagine themselves real but would have no physical form, existing only within the simulation.
If computer-loving aliens truly exist, Bostrum argued, “we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.” And then people like Tyson and Musk found their minds blown.